Friday, January 30, 2009

Bolivia and Brazil Joining Forces in Combatting Drug Trade

This is a few weeks old (I apologize for the light blogging - I currently have two grant proposals, a conference paper, a dissertation chapter, and a part-time job on my plate, and things have actually calmed a bit from the first 4 weeks of the year), but I wanted to point out that Bolivia and Brazil have joined forces in combatting the cocaine trade along their border in the wake of the expulsion of the DEA. It's a fascinating agreement that serves both wonderfully - Brazil is making an effort to implement some national drug policy efforts rather than letting police blaze their way into favelas, and Bolivia is making a strong effort to make clear that while coca leaf production is non-offensive and important to its economy, it has little tolerance for the cocaine trade. Additionally, Bolivia gets more infrastructural agreement as part of the deal, and Brazil strengthens its role as a regional leader in lending and development projects for its neighbors. Boz reminds us also that combatting the drug trade behooves more nations than the U.S., and that fighting it doesn't always have to involve the U.S.

But there is another major aspect worth mentioning here, too. Although the U.S. under Bush constantly chastized Morales for Bolivia's coca production (leading to occasionally humorous interactions between the two countries), Morales has always made it clear that the coca leaf itself is not a drug, and that he's against the proliferation of cocaine production. The distinction is important and relatively easy to understand, but one that the United States has never bothered to grasp. This request to Brazil just further evidence both of that fact, and of fact that U.S. really has gone about in the "war on drugs" in the Andes in the totally wrong way.